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Autoimmune Vasculitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Autoimmune Vasculitis?

Autoimmune Vasculitis is defined as a condition characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels due to autoimmune causes or disorders. This inflammation results in stenosis and weakness of the vessel lining and even can form clots in the damaged vessel. This significantly interferes with the blood flow to various vital organs of the body like kidney, lungs, and even brain.[1, 2, 3]

An autoimmune disorder is defined as a condition in which the immune system itself attacks the healthy tissues, cells, and blood vessels of the body. The most common autoimmune disorder associated with vasculitis is rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmune Vasculitis can be acute or chronic meaning that they can be either short term or long term. Autoimmune Vasculitis can at times be fatal if vital organs like brain and lungs do not receive adequate amount of oxygenated blood.[1, 2, 3]

What Causes Autoimmune Vasculitis?

As stated, Autoimmune Vasculitis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the healthy blood vessels of the body mistaking them for foreign substances. There is no known cause for this but experts have come up with a few triggers that may cause Autoimmune Vasculitis. These include certain infections, cancers, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and certain allergic reactions.[3]

Autoimmune Vasculitis causes the blood vessels to become thick and stenosed hampering normal blood flow. This results in the organs receiving less oxygenated blood than they require for normal functioning. The result of this is the affected or damaged blood vessels become susceptible to blood clots. In some cases, if the blood vessels become too weak then an aneurysm may form which may eventually burst.[3]

What are the Symptoms of Autoimmune Vasculitis?

The symptoms of Autoimmune Vasculitis depend on the blood vessel that is affected and the organ that is damaged. However, there are some symptoms which are common to all forms of vasculitis. These include fever, lethargy and fatigue, loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, pain in the muscles and joints, and weakness and numbness. The severity of the symptoms depends on how severely the blood vessel is affected.[3]

How is Autoimmune Vasculitis Treated?

There are various factors that determine the treatment for Autoimmune Vasculitis. They are the severity of the symptoms, the age of the patient, overall health status, and severity of the symptoms. Among the various treatments used, the most preferred and common is the use of steroids. They are used to decrease inflammation.[3]

However, steroids come with a list of side effects and are not a long term solution for vasculitis. Some of the most common steroids used to treat Autoimmune Vasculitis include prednisone and methylprednisolone. The most common side effects of chronic use of steroids include diabetes, weight gain, and osteoporosis[3]

Immunosuppressants are the next mode of treating Autoimmune Vasculitis. This is done for people who find steroids ineffective in controlling their symptoms. The most common medications used are Imuran and Cytoxan. The primary goal of treatment is to control the symptoms of vasculitis as early as possible to prevent any damage to the organ. This may be done with oral as well as intravenous medications[3]

Another goal of treatment is to act such that the symptoms do not recur for as long as possible. This is done by using a combination of immunosuppressive drugs and steroids. In cases of children, along with this combination they may also be given antihypertensives to keep the blood pressure in check.[3]

In conclusion, Autoimmune Vasculitis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. This inflammation results in the vessels becoming weak and thickened. This causes a reduction of oxygenated blood flow to vital organs of the body. The condition occurs when the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the healthy blood vessels, tissues, and cells of the body.[1, 2, 3]

Why this happens the researchers are not sure but there are certain triggers that can cause Autoimmune Vasculitis which have been described above. A damaged blood vessel due to Autoimmune Vasculitis becomes susceptible to blood clots or an aneurysm which can be potentially serious if it ruptures.[1, 2, 3]

The best way to treat Autoimmune Vasculitis is with steroids and immunosuppressants. In some cases a combination of these two medications will be required to treat Autoimmune Vasculitis.[1, 2, 3]


Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 28, 2021

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